Small businesses ready to invest in constant connectivity; new Yankee Group survey reveals mobile data solution purchase plans

PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 22, 2006--After years of lagging behind large corporations, small and medium-sized businesses are poised for major investment and adoption of wireless handset technology and mobile data services to help increase their workforce productivity. According to a new Yankee Group survey, 60 percent of all small business owners have already implemented or are planning on deploying a mobile data solution over a wireless -- also known as cellular -- network. This reflects a significant jump in wireless adoption plans when compared to a 2005 survey asking the same question, where 54 percent of respondents said they would not implement a wireless program.

"Constant connectivity is crucial for small and medium-sized companies, especially in today's fast-paced environment," said Russell Morgan, president of the nonprofit Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA). "Data communications provided through cellular networks gives business owners the capability to be in touch anywhere they have cell phone coverage and anytime that their mobile phones are on. But the many device, network and service options available mean that small business owners need to become more savvy about the capabilities they are looking for and the best ways to implement them for full integration with the rest of their technology."

The data shows having access to e-mail continues to be the top reason why small companies use wireless systems in the first place, but small businesses have a more aggressive view than large corporations about how to expand their systems into other business applications. Small and medium-sized businesses are more than twice as likely to see wireless services playing a significant role in remote systems administration in the future, for example, making wireless support an important component of any managed services solution that small and medium businesses might be considering.

"This rapid adoption rate reflects how small business managers view wireless handset technology and mobile data services adoption critical to gain a competitive edge," explained Gary Chen, Yankee Group analyst, small and medium business strategies. "Small business decision makers believe they will have an increased reliance on wireless connectivity in the near future, giving them better customer satisfaction and higher employee productivity."

The survey also points out the growing predominance of the cellular networks for accessing data. Not to be confused with Wi-Fi, or "hot spot," technology, cellular networks are provided by wireless phone companies and allow small business owners to use mobile handsets and PDAs to access e-mail and files, no matter where they are in the cell phone coverage area.

When choosing a device to access the network, the conventional mobile phone with data capabilities is currently the overwhelming choice of small and medium-sized businesses, according to the survey.

"In the battle between sleek cell phones and bulkier PDAs, the wireless phone continues to win with small companies," said Morgan. "When faced with a choice, people would rather carry a mobile phone with data capabilities than make phone calls from a hand held computer."

With so many choices of products from which to choose -- ranging from smart phones to wireless personal digital assistants -- it's important to ensure that the device can successfully access the corporate e-mail server and network to ensure compatibility. For instance, a standalone server -- separate from the company's messaging server -- is required for some handsets to be able to send and receive e-mail messages.

Morgan recommends a few simple steps for ways to help small business owners start implementing mobile technology.

1) Choose your device wisely. The market does not have a single overall mobile data standard for either devices or for networks. Your decision on a device and on a network must be fully integrated in order to provide the services you want. Ideally, you should work with a technology consultant -- or solution provider -- who can help you match the device, the operating system and the network with the features you want.

2) You don't have to work directly with the wireless carrier for end-to-end service. In fact, the preference to work directly with wireless carriers for small business services has decreased from 45 percent in 2004 to just 18 percent in 2006. While wireless carriers remain a viable option to consider for end-to-end service, the range of implementation partners now includes device vendors, software vendors and solution providers because they have both the technology and service expertise to help meet your specific needs.

3) Make sure you know what features you want your service to have. For example, many small businesses are heavy users of public Instant Messaging. Make sure your wireless solution allows this type of communication because not all offer this feature.

4) Sync up your e-mail. Keeping your wireless device and your office e-mail in synch is critical to maintain daily activities. Typically, this involves duplicating your business email on both the handset and corporate network. Be aware that there are a variety of ways that this issue is solved by vendors. Some require user actions, some handle this issue automatically (at a cost) and others give you a fair balance of usability and price. Make sure you know how this issue will be handled by your vendor before you buy.

5) Because a smart phone you buy from one wireless carrier won't necessarily work on a different wireless carrier, confirm that the features you want are available on the version of that device sold by the wireless carrier you're going to use.

6) Develop a wireless security policy to ensure your information is protected. Get started by requiring all devices with data access must have password protection to prevent accessibility by unauthorized people. Some solutions offer additional methods of protecting your critical data. This will help prevent a lost or stolen device from becoming a liability.

7) As always, contact your local solution provider to develop the most efficient, cost-effective and secure wireless plan for your business. Solution providers will help untangle the web of platforms, devices and software to help integrate your devices and services with the existing infrastructure.

About ITSPA (

Headquartered in Portland, Ore., the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA) is a national, nonprofit organization serving as an objective resource for businesses hoping to take advantage of the benefits of new technology. ITSPA is dedicated to helping small and medium-size businesses adopt technology and grow by using local solution providers to solve business challenges.

About Yankee Group (

Yankee Group is the expert in navigating the global connectivity revolution. For more than 35 years, Yankee Group's strategic vision, research and analysis, quantified market intelligence and credible advice have been guiding innovation and empowering our clients to make critical business decisions. Yankee Group is headquartered in Boston with presence throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

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